Red Decals Stay, Kyleigh’s Law Upheld By NJ Supreme Court
The New Jersey Supreme Court upheld Kyleigh's Law today, requiring that teen's have a red decal on the license plate of their cars.
The high court ruled unanimously that requiring the decals doesn't violate federal privacy laws or constitute unreasonable search and seizure. An appeals court had ruled similarly last year in a challenge brought by two Morris County parents.
"A driver's age group constitutes neither `highly restricted personal information' nor `personal information"' within the meaning of current federal law, the justices wrote. The decals don't give rise to unreasonable search and seizure because they are plainly visible and don't require police officers to stop and search a vehicle, they wrote.
New Jersey became the first state to enact a vehicle decal requirement for young drivers by passing Kyleigh's Law, which became effective on May 1, 2010. It is named for 16-year-old Kyleigh D'Alessio, who was killed in a 2006 crash while riding in a car driven by another teen.
The red stickers were designed to increase the ability of police officers to monitor young drivers on the roads and let more experienced, older drivers know to be on alert for inexperienced car maneuvering.
The law immediately prompted lawmakers to introduce a bill that would rescind the decal requirement until one that was invisible to the public but could be seen by police was created. At one point, there were six bills up for consideration in both the Senate and Assembly that addressed the controversial decal requirement.
Two years ago, Republican Assembly member Charlotte Vandervalk of Bergen, one of three sponsors of a bill to rescind the decal requirement, received letters from constituents who think the law poses a safety threat for teenage girls.
"It causes unintended safety concerns," Vandervalk said.
But Pam Fischer, head of the New Jersey Teen Safe Driving Coalition and former director of the State Division of Highway Traffic Safety, applauded the ruling, saying there's no evidence to support the claim that the decals unfairly target teens on the road.
"The state Attorney General's office had reached out to all police agencies across the state and asked them to report in on any incidents of harassment or targeting and that has not been the case."
"People need to understand that the decals are not putting our teens at risk, they are designed to help address risk" Fischer added.
“I am gratified by today’s New Jersey Supreme Court ruling upholding the requirements of Kyleigh’s law and my work to improve the safety of our state’s teenaged drivers. Too many lives have been tragically affected by car accidents caused by young drivers. Kyleigh’s law helps protect teen drivers by ensuring that the rules of New Jersey’s Graduated Driver’s License are followed and that teens are well prepared for the responsibilities of a full driver’s license,” Assemblyman John Wisniewski said in a statement released to the media.